Do you, as a Rockstar, beginner or hobbyist keyboard player, need external amplification?
While for some of you it may be an obvious decision to upgrade to an external speaker, and for others it may not seem much of a necessity, there are a few possibilities to consider when deciding if your keyboard requires an amp or not:
– You might be interested in an external amplifier because constant practice with headphones tires your ears, and built-in keyboard speakers tend to be of low quality
– You might start playing live at small venues that don’t offer a house PA system
– You rehearse with a band and have to compete with high-wattage guitar amps and an inconsiderate drum player
Whatever the case, we have prepared a guide that will provide all the relevant information you need about external amplification.
Nowadays you can find plenty of options that will fit any budget limitations. Developments in technology have made it possible for even the cheapest amps to retain the rich quality of sound that your kick-ass keyboard provides.
While this article will provide you with an array of useful information and products, no amount of technical knowledge will substitute for physically testing and listening to the unit you wish to purchase.
If you already know all the basics and what kind of external amplification system you need, feel free to skip right to our recommendations of the best keyboard amps and PA speakers on the market.
Glossary: The Technical Side of Amplification
I know, I know. You want to rush out to your nearest music shop and just buy a keyboard amp, ignoring all the boring technical information that you’re about to read.
By all means, we can’t stop you from buying that amp – but we can tell you it’s going to be an ill-advised purchase if you don’t know your basics.
Phew. The technical stuff is OVER. We can move on to the different types of equipment available for us talented keyboardists.
A keyboard amplifier is the simplest solution if you are looking into external amplification. It will work well for home settings (practicing, recording) and small venues (local coffee shop or small church gigs).
There are plenty of brands, aesthetics, and sizes to choose from but the key factors to consider should be quality, functionality and budget.
It’s very important to make sure that you are buying a keyboard specific amp or a multi-purpose amp. These are designed to entirely reproduce the wide frequency range of a keyboard, unlike a guitar amp.
In conjunction with this, guitar amps often ‘color’ the sound they reproduce. This provided tonal alteration is responsible for crafting heard throughout music history – think ‘Sunshine of Your Love’.
While this suits guitar players, a keyboardist generally wants to avoid any tone alteration, preferring a clean signal coming out of their amplifier for most purposes.
In terms of power, you can find keyboard amplifiers that start at around 20-watts of power and models that go up to 400-watts. Just for reference, 20 watts of power is more than enough for home use, while anything above 100 watts would be overkill at home.
Overkill is a personality staple of being a musician, so this isn’t necessarily a negative! Your neighbors may disagree though.
For personal use, one input is generally sufficient, but it’s always handy to have extra inputs for a microphone or MP3 player.
Nowadays there is an abundance of amplifier options that allow you to connect 3 to 4 instruments, provide additional AUX inputs for MP3 devices and even XLR inputs for microphones.
Both PAs and keyboard amplifiers tend to be built with strong materials since taking them on the road is part of their intended use. They tend to be made of either wood (hard plywood or solid wood), aluminum, plastic or a combination.
The materials used will definitely affect the sound but it’s not something to be concerned about. When making a choice use your ears and not the specs sheet or build materials.
Overall, a keyboard amplifier is the perfect choice if you want to play at home or small to medium events.
Even with very little experience you’ll be able to compare and identify which piece of equipment sounds the best to you. The amp that makes your keyboard’s sound satisfy your ears will keep you happy for a long time.
A PA system is a good all-round solution for keyboard monitoring. PA stands for Public Address and it is a system made up of various elements such as mixers, loudspeakers and amplifiers. This equipment is effective at increasing the loudness of a sound source, often substantially.
While this description might sound a bit dense and intimidating, it is easy to find great PA systems that are self-contained, meaning they include each hardware component (mixer, amp and speakers) in a single piece of equipment requiring minimal setup.
A Little About Each Part of a PA
The source will be any instrument or device that produces a sound. A keyboard, microphone or MP3 player are common sound sources.
The mixer will take the sounds coming from the source and put them into individual channels. This will allow you to blend, control and direct the sound coming from each channel into the amplifier.
There are external mixers that can range from 2 to 50 input channels, and there are also mixers that are built into speakers and have 1-4 channels.
Some powered mixers come with a built-in amplifier, eliminating the need for a separate amplifier.
The amplifier will receive the audio signals coming from the mixer and bring them up to a higher level.
While keyboard amps usually come in a lower range of power (you can find amps ranging from 20-400 watts), PA speakers tend to start at a very high wattage, since their intended use is to project sound to an audience, often over a longer distance.
Responsible for transforming electrical energy coming from the amp or mixer (or directly from the source!) into mechanical energy. The quality of sound the entire system emits will depend on the quality of the speakers.
Though they may seem designed for specific purposes, all of this information doesn’t mean that PA systems are exclusively for live performances.
They come in all sizes and price ranges which will guarantee that there’s an option for the home musician as well as the live player.
PA systems also tend to keep a very clean, unaltered signal, with less tonal alterations than an amp.
Active vs Passive PA System
You can find ‘active’ and ‘passive’ PA speakers. An active speaker is self-powered or ‘plug-and-play’. It has the amp and speaker built into one unit and in some cases even EQ and auxiliary connections.
A passive speaker, on the other hand, will require a connection into a power amplifier that provides power to the speaker.
As you can guess by that description, it is a lot simpler to set up an active speaker PA system than it is to set up a system with passive speakers.
There’s a lot of possibilities but you can start with one or two speakers and a mixer as an initial PA setup. Generally, active speakers provide XLR/line connections on the back, which is sufficient for most basic needs.
Since active speakers have their own amplifier built in, they are considerably heavier than passive speakers.
All the features mentioned above make active speaker systems a great option for small events.
Passive speakers are usually found in medium to larger size venues.
Since they don’t include any built-in components, they are less susceptible to faults and very rarely require reparation. For this reason, they are often in fixed positions or even built into the structure of the venue.
It’s also very simple to expand a PA system if you have passive speakers. You can keep adding speakers as long as you have the required amplification for the number of speakers being used.
Always make sure that your power amp can provide twice as many watts as your speaker requires. A 200-watt – 8-ohm amp will work well with 100-watt – 8-ohm speakers. This ensures that there’s plenty of power for the speakers to operate at an optimal level.
For both active and passive speakers the number of channels available for playback will depend on the mixer. The output of your keyboard will most likely be stereo (2 channels), but your mixer may provide 4 or more input channels.
If the mixer is built into the PA speaker (active system), you may only have one or two channels (line/XLR inputs) for your instruments/equipment, so keep that in mind.
For your keyboard, you only need two channels (if you plan to go stereo) or even one channel will suffice for mono signals.
So What Should I Target Out of Passive and Active PA Systems?
As everything in the world of musical hardware does, this will…drum-roll…depend on your specific situation. Bet you wanted to hear something other than ‘it depends’, didn’t you?
Unfortunately, it’s simply the truth. The pros and cons need to be evaluated on a case by case basis.
Passive speakers will require more equipment and be lighter while active speakers can be used as self-contained systems but are generally a lot heavier.
An example of this would be playing in a small coffee shop or a wedding. You can manage to cover such scenarios with a couple of active speakers.
Since some active speakers offer 2 channel inputs, it will allow you to connect a microphone in conjunction with your keyboard, in case you’re a talented singer. Or even just a singer – no judgement here.
Though an active speaker would suffice, in this situation a portable (external) 4- or 6-channel mixer would be a good option, since you can control the level of both your microphone and the keyboard easily, instead of having to walk back and forth to the speakers to control the audio levels.
Alternatively, if you own an audio interface, you might be able to use it as well. Keep in mind, though, that most audio interfaces need to be connected to a laptop or a smart device, unlike mixers that can operate as standalones.
One thing to keep in mind is that the higher the price of the PA, the better the audio quality and functionality (in most cases, there are some exceptions!).
However, if you are shopping for keyboard amplification then you probably want to stay within the consumer price range. Around $200–800 would be the price to have in mind.
Most PA systems above this price range will provide diminishing returns on audio quality and functionality unless you are planning to do more than just amplifying your keyboard (if you own a live venue and need a PA system for example).
What’s the Difference Between a Keyboard Amp and a PA System?
Nowadays you will not find a huge difference in functionality between keyboard amplifiers and portable PAs. Especially when it comes to the higher-powered systems with outputs of over 50 watts. Music shops and stores often advertise the same items in both categories.
One of the main reasons is similar frequency response requirements for both PAs and keyboard amps.
Excluding some very specific models like Leslie cabinets for Hammond organs, frequency responses need to have flat mids, crisp highs and solid lows. Thus, there is no point in setting a PA or an amp category as your selection criteria.
Nevertheless, there are differences caused by different objectives of respective designs.
While keyboard amp design is focused on the keyboardist’s needs and the accurate delivery of a keyboard sound (not necessarily to an audience), a portable PA’s design is focused on a band/small performing group, and the delivery of multiple instrument’s audio to an audience.
Difference in Shapes
One of the notable differences is the shape of keyboard amps versus PAs. Keyboard amps are usually wedge-shaped, while PA speakers often have a rectangular shape.
A wedge shape is intended to give musicians the ability to hear themselves on-stage – the speaker(s) can be pointed toward the performer and be used as a way of monitoring the performance.
In conjunction with this, the tapered shape is very handy in delivering sound to an audience too.
For example, let’s consider you as a street musician. You’re busking at a train station and place your amp on the ground.
To direct the sound waves higher – toward the faces of your audience – would be ideal because it provides a clearer, higher fidelity audio response to your listeners than if the amp is haphazardly directed at their kneecaps (as is so often seen).
A tapered amplifier shape (like a wedge shape) will perform this task, being particularly of use when the amp is not very loud.
The design of PAs has a different feature in how it delivers sound to an audience. PA speakers have a socket for mounting it to a stand. This allows you to rise them up, avoiding sound absorption by the first rows of audience or other obstacles.
Of course, you can elevate your keyboard amp too, for example on a table, but this method isn’t fool-proof, particularly if you’re performing for a pretty large crowd.
To be sure that the back rows can hear your performance as crisply as the front rows – raising your speaker on a stand will work more effectively.
Some of the powered loudspeakers also have a slightly tapered to the back shape and can be used as PA speakers in a vertical arrangement and as the stage monitors when placed on the longer side. This design is especially popular for low-mid range speakers.
Difference in Packaging and Convenience
This topic was discussed earlier so will be kept brief. In short: keyboard amplifiers are ‘all-in-one’ units, offering a simpler sound solution for performance than that of a PA. They often have handles and wheels for easy movement.
In contrast, PAs often contain multiple components (passive PAs), increasing the size, fiddling and inconvenience of lugging them around and setting them up.
Differences in Features
The other differences to consider between PAs and keyboard amps is the number of microphone inputs, and the quality of these inputs. Discussed briefly earlier in the article, below we will dive into the theory behind microphone amplification and just how to determine the quality of your amplification’s inputs.
Interestingly, microphone inputs have recently become an industry-standard feature for nearly all keyboard amps with over 20 watts of output. This is possibly an effort by keyboard amp manufacturers to keep up with the wider functionality offered by PA systems in general.
Though the ability to project microphones is now commonplace, with some cheaper amp models, the quality of sound transmission is compromised by the quality of its microphone channel.
Since the microphone signal is very weak – much weaker than an instrument signal – it needs to be increased (pre-amplified) before a circuit of any device such as amp or mixer can process and reproduce it.
For this purpose, any microphone input has a pre-amplifier (preamp). However, a good preamp is expensive and will substantially increase the cost of an entire amplification unit. To circumvent this, many low-end products save on costs by skimping on ‘less important’ circuitry and hardware components.
One of the common ways manufacturers avoid extra costs is to substitute a balanced input socket with an unbalanced socket. An unbalanced audio signal is more susceptible to external noises caused by electromagnetic interference. As a result, you can easily run into a noisy and distorted signal.
This issue can become more apparent if you are running a microphone cable of over 10-15 feet (3+ meters), which is fairly common practice in live settings.
The louder you need to run your amp, the more noticeable such unwanted noise could become. The further from the amp a singer is located, the more instruments and cables on the stage – the more possibility of a noise problem arising.
At the same time, if you are a solo performer looking to amplify your performance in coffee houses and bars, a keyboard amp in which you can plug into your keyboard and your microphone is more than enough.
1) For low wattage systems, keyboard amps are faster to set up and easier to operate during performance;
2) In the same power range PAs are usually cheaper than amps (in other words you can get more features and power for the same price);
3) Keyboard amps could be more suitable for smaller venues, for solo performers and for rehearsing situation;
4) PAs could serve well as setups for small bands and groups of musicians and when you are not sure what a common outline for your performance is.
For many professional musicians their home speaker setup is often their studio monitors. This is because studio monitors can give you a flat (without any additional coloration) sound with a very wide frequency range.
Thus, you get the sound of your instrument portrayed as close to the original as possible.
With the latest sound technologies easily available on the market, it is very simple to set up a home studio for recording sketches, ideas and demos.
And because the sound requirements for both studio monitors and keyboard speakers are very close, it is possible to use the same sound system for both purposes.
Studio monitors can be active – with a built-in amplifier – or passive, where they are powered by a standalone amplifier(s).
Nowadays, more and more musicians use active monitors for their home studios, as they are more compact and cheaper to buy. However, they are also very limited in terms of inputs.
You’ll most likely get one channel per speaker and limited controls for EQ and other types of signal processing.
The controls are not easily accessible, like they might be in a keyboard amplifier, since they are in the back of the monitor and tend to be protected so that the dials don’t move unless intended to.
Studio monitors are not particularly suitable for performing keyboardists, who are usually searching for something mobile, robust and functional for a live setting.
Because of their smaller size and wattage output level, studio monitors are simply not designed to project sound to an audience.
Instead, they’re aimed at high-fidelity (mostly near-field) monitoring for both amateur and professional engineers/consumers.
If you already own a Hi-Fi audio system or plan to buy one then there’s a good chance it offers a stereo quarter-inch input.
These inputs are normally found in the back of the Hi-Fi system’s amp labeled as an ‘Aux’ input (or two Aux inputs – left and right – white and red). This is a great option if you are an audiophile that also wants to play keyboards for an intimate audience.
However, the intended use of Hi-Fi systems is music reproduction, not keyboard monitoring or live instrument monitoring, and therefore shouldn’t be your top priority for keyboard amplification.
With that in mind, if you already own one, it can be a fun task to set it up with your keyboard and put on a show for your friends, family or peeved neighbors.
What to Consider When Buying a Keyboard Amplification System?
Now you know the technical details of different keyboard amplification methods, there are a few things you have to consider before diving into a purchase.
Excited? You should be, but don’t press that ‘Add to Basket’ button until you’ve read this next section.
Before jumping into amplification specifics, here are the main features you should keep in mind:
A good sounding device will make your playing sessions a lot more enjoyable to you and your listeners. The sound quality will depend on aspects like the size and materials of the speakers, the sound processing options (like EQ), etc.
What do you specifically want your amplifier for? Home practice, home studio recording, live performance?
The amplifier’s suitability will be determined by how many inputs and extra features you need, as well as how badly you want to keep your neighbors awake at night (ie. the volume of your amp).
While a 20-watt amp is perfect for practice, you’ll need a more powerful system if you plan to play live.
Speakers are crucial when it comes to sound fidelity. Their brand, size and quantity are important factors to pay attention to. Do you need high-fidelity reproduction of your keyboard sounds or just an affordable amp to practice?
It’s easy to try for the biggest, baddest, loudest amp you can find without considering what you actually plan on using the equipment for.
Remember to keep in mind the portability and ease of transport of a particular amplification system. Think about how often you might need to transport it.
Will you keep it at home in a corner or will you have to carry it to different venues several times a week? These considerations will instantly eliminate a number of options and make your decision much easier.
Nowadays most audio gear comes with plenty of connectivity options but that can also be a factor in the price. Is it just keyboards you plan to connect to the amp, or will you be singing or maybe playing with a backing track or other musicians?
EQ and FX
Having equalization options is always beneficial to an amp. You’ll need to shape the sound a bit differently depending on the size of the room, and an equalizer provides you with all sorts of potential tones that can improve the sound coming from your keyboard.
Your keyboard might already include great effects and presets – maybe you are one of those keyboard players that uses a pedalboard, or maybe you have never tried FX in your sound at all.
Whichever player you are, it’s a good idea to consider if you would like to tweak EQ and FX settings through the PA/Amp, instead of solely using the settings available through your keyboard.
All of these will vary depending on your needs. Even though the exact same amp may be effective for practicing at home in the morning as well as a live performance at night, there are specific features that will make each option relevant in different situations.
Contemporary manufacturing and demand for affordable yet high-functionality audio gear has forced there to be options that will provide plenty of flexibility if you want to cover home, live and studio performances in a single shot! Thanks capitalism!
So with all this in mind, it’s time to take a look at some of the best keyboard amplifiers and PA systems.
Best Keyboard Amplifiers
A very basic keyboard amplifier, perfect for home practice. The KB1 features 20 watts of power and 2 channels with independent volume and dual-band EQ controls.
You’ll need an adapter for other types of connections since it doesn’t have XLR or Aux inputs for microphones or MP3 players.
The 20 watts of power should be enough for home use and even sufficient for practicing with vocalists and acoustic guitars. That being said, this amp may struggle if you are practicing with a band, especially if there’s drums involved.
The independent EQ for each channel is a nice advantage if you are planning to connect other instruments or practice with a backing track.
Additionally, Peavey is a very reliable manufacturer. You can expect durability and quality from their product builds.
Other bigger models on Peavey’s KB amp series exist, which should give you a good range of options in case the KB1’s power or functionality is insufficient for your requirements.
Overall, this amp should be considered as a practice amp and not a powerhouse designed for street performance or live events.
- Decent sound for the price and size
- Portability (16 lbs)
- Good for home practice
- Limited channels and control
- No XLR or Aux inputs
- Generally not powerful enough for live use
The Behringer K450FX is a monster PA/keyboard amp for the price and flexibility it offers.
This behemoth features 45 watts of power, 3 channels with separate volume options, a master graphic EQ and a number of FX presets to play with. To top it all off, this system even comes with a CD input.
This unit guarantees a high quality of sound thanks to its specially made 10-inch Bugera speaker. Hours of fun are to be had with the K450FX, as its functionality lives up to the last two letters in its model name.
Thanks to its digital 24-bit FX processor that includes 100 FX presets – such as reverbs, delays and modulators, you can say goodbye to sleep as you attempt to harness the creative potential this amplifier provides
The availability of 3 channels provides plenty of possibilities, particularly since channel one also has an XLR input. This will allow you to connect up to 3 instruments plus a dynamic microphone.
Its 5-band graphic EQ comes with feedback detection technology that will allow you to instantly detect problematic frequencies. The EQ is global, not per channel, so it applies to every connected instrument.
Each channel has its own FX volume send. Even though the FX selected is global, you can control how much of it you want on each channel.
All of this is more than enough for home practice and recording. The creative suite included with this system allows you to be crafting sounds you never thought your setup could produce.
In conjunction with its potential for home use, the K450FX can also be perfect for studio or small live situations since it features a line output, a sub output, and a headphone output.
A 35mm pole socket on the bottom of the speaker will allow you to mount it on a pole to use it as a PA system.
Finally, if all that wasn’t enough, it comes with a CD input. Very handy if you play with backing tracks or any pre-recorded material, or just want to chuck on your favorite Radiohead album at a party.
This amplifier can also be used as a stage monitor while connected to a PA through the line out.
Overall, this PA/keyboard amp is a jack of all trades. It presents itself as the perfect solution for small live gigs, especially if you sing while playing or play with electro-acoustic guitar players.
It’s also a great solution for studio monitoring/recording and definitely a fun option for home practice or recording.
- 45-watts – perfect for small live settings, studio or home
- Bugera 10-inch speaker
- Plenty of inputs and output options
- Relatively portable (33 lbs)
- 100 FX presets
- Reported hardware faults
- Not the best option for bigger live situations
The Roland ‘C’ series is well known among instrumentalists – with the JC being a staple of the guitar world. Their ‘KC’ series, designed specifically for keyboards, offers a step up in audio quality compared to the previously mentioned products.
This review will be specifically discussing the KC400 since it’s a good middle point in the series, but keep in mind that the price will mostly affect wattage and features the sound quality and build materials are very similar regardless of model expense.
This amp will deliver full-range stereo sound with 150 watts of power and a 2-way speaker system (woofer-tweeter) that will reproduce the wide frequency range of any keyboard instrument, as well as your keyboard’s digital instrument emulations.
It provides 4 stereo channels, an Aux input, a sub and headphone output, a direct line output and a stereo link output. The 4 instrument channels can be used as mono or stereo, which is a great feature for those playing live.
Channel 1 also offers a microphone XLR input.
The Aux input supports mono and stereo connections and allows you to hook up your MP3 player or virtually any smart device to play back a song or a backing track.
Stereo link jacks come handy when you want to link your amp into another KC amp through the stereo link connection to get a full stereo setup.
The line out is a great addition in case you want to use the amp as a stage monitor and still connect to a PA with a stereo signal.
All in all, the KC400 is a great amp for both home use and live situations. Even though it weighs 48 lbs and is relatively big (W x D x H: 19.3″ x 15.1″ x 18.5″), it comes with wheels on the bottom for easy transportation. You can roll it around like a suitcase!
With that said, if that seems like overkill for your needs, check out the KC-400’s less powerful and more compact brothers, the KC-200 and KC-80.
- 150 watts – more than enough for most live and home use
- Clean, accurate tone reproduction
- Plenty of inputs and output options
- Wheels – handy for portability
- Decent range of models to pick from
- Relatively expensive
Best PA Systems
Behringer Europort PPA500BT
The Europort PPA500 is a high-quality portable PA system. It’s comprised of 2 passive speakers and a compact 500-watt amp/mixing console. The whole system can be assembled into a single unit that’s easy to carry – it only weighs 44.7 lbs.
The Europort comes with 6 channels, providing plenty of versatility. Channels 3-4 and 5-6 can be used as stereo or individual mono channels.
These channels are: two XLR/Line inputs on channels 1 and 2; Line/RCA inputs for channels 3-6. The Europort also boasts Bluetooth connection for any device like tablets and smartphones, adding an extra level of functionality to an already diverse system.
It features a 5-band master EQ with feedback detection technology as well as individual bass and treble controls for 4 channels (channels 3-4 and 5-6 are controlled as stereo channels).
It also includes more than 100 digital effect presets by Klark Teknik with independent FX send control on the mixer.
The frequency response of the Europort is very good (50-22kHz) and the sound quality is clean. However, it only has 8-inch woofers, so the low end performance will be decent but a separate sub woofer would be needed for bigger, bassier live shows.
Europort PPA500 is a great option for small to medium live gigs and outdoor events due to the Europort’s volume capacity and input versatility.
It’s bundled with the cables needed to connect the speaker to the mixer, as well as XLR and RCA cables.
Overall, the Europort PPA550BT is a fantastic option for its price, boasting exceptional audio quality and an array of features well-suited for the hobbyist or the pro.
- Great performance and sound quality
- Input versatility
- Easy to carry
- Easy to set up
- Great price/value ratio
- Small woofers providing a dip in low-end performance
- Added FX quality isn’t as good as other PA systems
Mackie SRM350 V3
Mackie’s SRM are among the best active speakers that you’ll find at this price range. With 1000-watts of power (peak) and a clean tone, this system is a fantastic choice for both entry-level and experienced keyboardists.
This speaker is perfect for those of you that want a plug and play experience – going without all the fancy connections and controls.
It features 2 mic/line inputs with independent volume control and an RCA connection that shares volume control with channel 2.
While the inputs are pretty simple, it also offers other tools, like an application-specific speaker mode that allows you to optimize the speaker for specific uses.
These modes include:
PA mode – full range unaltered reproduction
DJ mode – bumps up the highs and lows, great for music reproduction
Monitor mode – rolls off the low end to optimize the speaker to be used as a stage monitor Solo mode—rolls off the low end and boosts the mid-range a little, perfect for singing and playing.
It also has an automatic feedback destroyer which scans for problematic frequencies. Both the speaker mode and the feedback destroyer are single button interfaces which makes them very easy to set up.
Since it is a fair bit smaller than regular PA speakers, the Mackie SRM350 features fantastic portability, weighing in at only 24 lbs (11 kg).
The SRM’s 10-inch woofer should provide good bass reproduction, however, if you need more power and bass clarity for bigger events there are other products in the SRM series that include the same features but bigger woofers and higher wattage.
- Powerful relative to its portability
- Easy to set up
- High-definition sound
- Perfect for small-medium events
- Not as powerful as most PA speakers
- Very limited input capacity
The DBR series sits at the lower-end of Yamaha’s speaker range, but don’t let that fool you.
The DBR series is specifically targeted at people that need a high-quality sounding speaker that is affordable – the quality of a DBR system is comparable to Yamaha’s higher-tier series like DXR.
The reason why it is more affordable than other Yamaha series is the build quality. This speaker is not as rugged as the other professional speakers, as Yamaha employed lighter, less expensive plastic for the body materials.
In conjunction with this, the amplifier is not as powerful (less watts) as its bigger brothers – but there is good news. None of this will directly affect sound quality.
800 watts of power, a 15-inch cone and a broad frequency range (50 Hz-20 kHz) should provide enough juice for live use. And the standard pole socket provided on the bottom of the speaker will allow you to mount it for live events.
In terms of channels, you get the standard 2-channel plus RCA inputs. Both channels offer combo XLR/TRS ports with separate volume knobs and channel 2 shares volume controls with the RCA input.
Channel 1 can also be used for connecting a mic (there’s a switch that allows you to choose between line and mic level).
The sound processing options are very simple too. A dynamic-EQ with main, monitor and off options that will allow you to optimize the sound.
The EQ also contains an easy to use high-pass filter to cut off 100-120Hz sounds in case you have a separate subwoofer taking care of the low end.
The DBR15 weighs 53 lbs (24 kg) and is a regular size speaker, so portability isn’t really a selling point of this product.
- High-definition sound across a wide frequency range
- Great bass response thanks to the 15-inch woofer
- Easy to set up
- Perfect for small-medium events
- Relatively heavy to carry around
- Poorer build quality than more expensive options
This lightweight and compact speaker was designed to deliver power and quality beyond the scope of small-sized speakers, making it one of the best options at this price range.
It delivers a decent frequency range (50 Hz to 20 kHz) with a 12-inch woofer and 1000 watts of power. The bass response will not be the greatest due to the size of the woofer but it should deliver enough bass for small and medium events (~up to 200 people).
There’s a 15-inch version of this speaker that should be beneficial for musicians performing at larger events.
The ZLX-12P offers digital DSP with a selection of preset EQs and FX. The presets include location presets – pole, monitor, and bracket, as well as four audio playback modes: music live (for voice and instrument), speech, and club (stronger bass).
These are all variations of the speaker’s frequency response which should optimize the performance of the system depending on the way it is set up (a pole for example) and its intended use (speech for example).
There are two line/mic inputs and a single output for daisy-chaining the system into a second (or multiple speakers) plus an Aux input (stereo mini 3.5mm).
The ZLX-12P doesn’t offer anything extremely versatile or innovative but meets the industry-standard functionality requirements of contemporary active speakers.
The speaker’s enclosure is made of polypropylene – a strong material which is notably resistant to moisture. This suggests the ZLX-12P is very well-equipped to be used outdoors.
It weighs 33 lbs (15 kg) which is considered lightweight for a speaker, meaning portability isn’t a huge issue with this one.
Overall, the ZLX-12P is a great choice for the small event musician or duo (i.e. small weddings or coffee shops) and allows for speaker/system expansion if necessary.
- Built like a tank
- Accurate sound reproduction
- Easy to use DSP thanks to the built-in screen
- Excellent price/value ratio
- Limited low-end response
- No RCA connections
Bose S1 Pro
The Bose S1 Pro would be considered an ultra-lightweight PA system. Weighing just 13 pounds (6 kg) and featuring a 6-inch woofer and 160 watts of RMS power, the S1 Pro isn’t going to be the speaker that prompts your neighbors to pay you a visit at 3 am.
In spite of its difficulty performing in live spaces other than relatively small events, this product offers wonderful sound quality and can double as a keyboard amp for home practice.
The mixer has 3 channels – 2 of them have independent analog volume, bass, treble and reverb controls.
Those two channels also offer independent ‘tone match’ controls which is just a fancy way of saying EQ presets that can be set at off, guitar, or voice to optimize the frequency response.
The third channel has a 3.5mm (Aux) input and simple volume controls. This third channel also offers Bluetooth connectivity, which makes it very easy to pair your device and play background music for any number of smaller public or private settings.
While the price may seem steep relative to the size of the speakers, the Bose S1 Pro has several features that make it a strong contender. Bose is pretty well known for its sound quality, and the S1 is no exception to this public perception.
You can run the system on batteries (rechargeable, included with the speaker) for up to 11 hours, something that’s not offered on most PAs and adds an extra layer of flexibility to its functionality.
Hey, have you ever seen someone set up a PA system at a beach? The title of ‘first consumer to do that’ could very well be yours.
Overall, the Bose S1 Pro is a great option for home use, traveling musicians, street performers and small events.
- Impressive sound for the size
- Perfect for home and small events
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Up to 11 hours of battery operation
- Limited frequency response due to the size
- A bit expensive compared to larger active speakers
You might also like:
Selecting the Best Audio Interface for Your Home Studio
How to Record a Digital Piano [Audio & MIDI] – Step-by-Step Guide
Best Portable Digital Pianos Under $2000 (for Advanced Pianists)
Super helpful. Thank you!
Matt Dennett – Australia
Awesome! Glad it was helpful.
Thank you for this excellent review.
I have a Nord Stage 2 and I bought 2 Yamaha MSP5 studio monitors.
Is it the good speakers for this keyboard?
I am not very satisfied because there is a noise coming from the speakers.
Your help please!
Yeah, those should work just fine with your keyboard.
Could you give me a bit more details about the kind of noise you’re hearing and when does it happen (when you play, when you simply turn it on, when you connect it to AC, etc.)
Also what about the sound itself, do you like it apart from the noise?
Thanks! Great lesson/review!
I ask you a question, i have always played acoustic instrument and i am new to electronic hardwares.
My dad is an accordion player and recently bought a keytar (73 yo!). Yamaha Sonogenic SHS500.
We want to play toghether indoor, with an acoustic drumset and a half-tail piano.
What could be the less expensive (best quality/price) solution?
Was looking for a Behringer k450fx ultratone but i am afraid it should be to low powerful.
Thanks in advance!
Hi Silvio, thanks for stopping by. What instrument exactly are you looking to amplify (the keytar?). Also, I’m not sure what you mean by “a half-tail piano”. In any case, the K-450FX should be just fine in terms of power when using it indoors (if by indoors you mean your home rather than a big concert hall:)).
The JBL SRX Series received no mention here. Extremely high end, but for the keyboard players that absolutely demand the higher SPL with literally no distortion or coloration,, I have tried the Roland keyboard amps. Their top of the line matter of fact. Finally settled on the J B L SRX812P. 2ooo watt (1500 watt rms). I play a high end Dexibell Stage Piano. The combination is nothing short of outstanding, regardless of volume, which it has plenty. Roland does not hold a candle to the qualit u of this JBL powered monitor. The other brands, I. E. Beringer, etc are not even a consideration. I’ve played live for 35 years and have found the JBL SRX line simply wonderful. Yes expensive. You get what you pay for.. Seems like most reviews are geared toward Roland, Beringer and Yamaha for some odd reason. Thanks for the time though, for this “beginners course”.
I know you meant well.
Appreciate your feedback, Marcus. The article was intended to be more of a gentle introduction to the world of keyboard amplification, so we didn’t really touch on the pro-grade options available out there. JBL’s PRX and SRX are fantastic, the QSC K12.2 is another great speaker. There are quite a few worthy options on the high-end of the spectrum, but I figured that for most people that kind of power and technology wouldn’t be relevant. Well, it looks like I might be wrong, so I’ll consider adding a few options for professional use in the article. Thanks again for pitching in!
Hi. I have read that for home use, if you want quality sound, especially for acoustic piano sounds, the best option is studio monitors. Do you agree? Wich options would be better in the low range price? Thank you very much.
Well, if you don’t plan to perform for an audience and only need speakers for self-monitoring then studio monitors are definitely a great choice. It’s hard to beat them when it comes to sound fidelity. We have a full article dedicated to them.
Hi Lucas. I have back problems so I’m ditching my Motion Sound KP500s as it is a beast. I recently picked up two JBL EON 10” active speakers. They are definitely lighter and easier to transport, but the keyboards sound a bit thin through them. I run two keyboards in stereo directly to each speaker. Should I add a mixer or a DI box? Or possibly a tube pre amp? Do you have any recommendations? Thanks.
Hey Mike, “beast” is right 🙂 What keyboard are you using? Have you tried connecting in mono? Might also worth playing around with various EQ settings on the speakers (and/or keyboard itself).
I don’t have a ton of experience when it comes to running a keyboard through a tube preamp. If your keyboards have line-level outputs, it should be enough for the active speaker to amplify that signal.
Thanks for the response. I’m running a Nord Piano and a Numa Organ, which I think are both unbalanced outputs. I ordered one of those Key Largo direct box/mixers and will see if it balances the levels at all. I’m worried the EON 610s might be a little too thin, however, I didn’t want to go to the 12″ for weight. With my current back issues, I’m trying to keep everything under 25lbs…I may even have to switch to non-weighted keys for piano and electric piano!
Got it! Let me know if the mixer gets this fixed. Also, again, it may be worth playing around with the EQ settings to get a sound more to your liking.
Don’t you have the acceptable relationship between speaker and amp power ratings backward?? A speaker’s power rating is meant to be an upper limit, i.e., how much power it can take without damage. So your 200-watt amp and 100-watt speaker scenario, while not completely incompatible, might could melt the voice coils down when fully wound out.
Good question, Jeffrey! I know this might be a bit confusing and counterintuitive even, but basically, it’s recommended to have a power amp that can deliver about twice the RMS (continuous) power of the speaker (not to be confused with peak or program power rating). This ensures that you have enough headroom to drive the speaker without driving your amplifier into clipping.
You can indeed fry your speakers (if you use an amp that’s too powerful for them) when you increase the drive level more than the speakers can handle, but using an amp that’s not powerful enough is just as bad! When the amp lacks enough power, you can easily overdrive it trying to get an adequate volume out of your speakers, which again can damage your speakers.
If you’d like to learn more about the technical side of things, this article might be helpful.
The flaw in this argument, as I see it, can be illustrated thusly: suppose I have a 200W power amp that I run flat-out but never drive into clipping. What continuous power rating of speaker would I want to be running that through: 100W or 400W? I have always understood that clipping can damage speakers that otherwise wouldn’t be damaged but I feel like the goal ought to be avoiding clipping by minding your levels versus overrating the amp.
Well, the harder you drive an amp, the more distortion it produces, plus running your amplifier at full capacity constantly is less than ideal since all of its components are at their max stress when you do that. There’s really no one-size-fits-all solution here since there are a lot of factors that go into matching speakers and amplifiers, including the efficiency of the speakers.
Minding your levels is always a great idea, but the thing is that when your speakers are underpowered, you will not be able to get to high volume levels without overdriving the amp. That’s why it’s recommended to have an amp that’s powerful enough to drive your speakers and even provides some headroom so that you don’t have to drive it all the way to the top.
Here is a forum discussion that might be helpful.
Regarding your particular example, running a 400W speaker through a 200W power amp will likely result in a situation where your speakers are underpowered.
Thank You for this article. I’m thinking about buying a behringer k900fx to use for rehearsals and small gigs. But ultimately I would buy another k900fx for stereo effect. Will this work and is it a good solution?
My daughter has a basic Casio CDP-S100 that does not have an output for an amp. Can we connect an amp through the headphone jack? We want to be able to connect a mic. We have been looking at the Roland KC-200, but realized there is no output for an amp.
Thank you for the article.
I ordered a Korg D1 after reviews from this website. I am looking forward.
The article convinced me to go for a Keyboard AMP and not PA. I am thinking the Roland. However, i wish to have some 2-3 mics inputs and some options for external. Do you think i should consider a PA? What will give me the true sound from the digital piano.
The mic inputs and “options for external” contraindicate a keyboard amp in favor of a PA will full-range speakers. It can be a powered mixer and passive speakers or an unpowered mixer and a couple of powered speakers (mixer, power amp, and passive speakers is another way to go but with the other two options available and no other reason to, I’d advise against it).
Hi! Could you comment on JBL Eon 700 series? I am considering JBL Eon 710 OR Mackie SRM 350 V3. I am a singer + digital piano player, performing solo, a woman weighing 55kg so I’m looking for an active speaker for small gigs that I can carry on my own without too much strain and without sacrificing the sound quality (much).